They always say that if you do what you love then you'll never have to work a day in your life. It is, by all accounts, the most valuable piece of advice I've ever received, it falls into the bracket of “follow your heart” and not just your brain or bank account. There’s also a great deal of wisdom in doing what you love cos you’ll excel at it naturally. As young working people, we should all endeavour to make each career move, well, move in that general direction.
What got my thoughts moving in this general direction was an article sent to me by P which contained this post from the HBR blog, and later in the day, Tulika was kind enough to retweet this piece to me.
The main takeaway from the HBR piece was that when it comes to your career, you've got to apply "extreme criteria." Greg McKeown used the rather frivolous example of cleaning out your wardrobe to make more space for pretty new things, but it got the point across sufficiently as I'm a regular de-clutterer of wardrobes.
McKeown advocates being ruthless when it comes to clearing - otherwise we'll never be able to make space for something better (true). This involves using our brain's "sophisticated search engine" to narrow down the options from those that would merely be a "good opportunity" to the fuckyeahunbeatable. He poses three really simple questions to help us get there:
- What am I deeply passionate about?
- What taps my talent?
- What meets a significant need in the world?
The fact that it's worked for Enric Sala (an explorer-in residence with National Geographic, whose life's work is to create the equivalent of National Parks to protect the last pristine places in the ocean) tells me that while it isn't easy, it is possible to do work that you love, that taps into your talents, and serves a significant need in the world. Life should be about the possibilities shouldn't it?
It should also be about the pursuit of one's ideal state. It is in that triangle where all three intersect where you'll find your own "absolute highest point of contribution." The holy trinity of the working world. What I would give to get there!
Not that I don't like what I do - I love the content of the work, the pace (sometimes insane but I love the adrenaline rush that comes with rushing stuff out), the extreme amount of client face time I get so early on in my career, and the intellectual rigor involved in waking up each day and fixing other peoples' problems (and hooboy there sure are a lot of them!) - it's a good job. It definitely taps into my so-called talent (or perhaps the more appropriate term would be skill-set – like research, writing, talking to a lot of people and then telling them what to do... It maxes out my powerpoint potential and forces me to play data monkey on excel) and falls into the category of "plethora of good things to do." But is it a dream job? Is it my own personal holy grail? That would be a stretch.
Tulika’s tweet brought the brilliant Ms. MacTavish into my life. This woman brings home a pretty paycheck doing what I love (and some say what I do best) - dinner parties. Business Insider calls her dinner party dos "The Hottest Ticket in Silicon Valley." This former PR maven married her day job (PR) with playtime (dinner parties); and turned herself into the Martha Stewart of Silicon Valley. If you've been reading for a while, you'll know that I am really, really into making people meet, you'll also know that I really want to make like Martha.
If you’re thinking “she’s so fluffy,” take a closer look – everyone says networking is the way to the top (it's basically business 101 right?), and if you think about it, there's really no better way to get conversation going and ideas flowing than by locking a whole bunch of different people with diverse interests in a room together for a few hours over a delicious meal and lots and lots and lots of liquor. It's good for the soul, and it beats those stuffy formal mixers any day.
Call me crazy, but I've even got a dream guest list of all the great and groovy people I know whom I'd love to get together sometime. We'll make idea-babies of a lifetime. But that's a story I'll save for another day.
Good ideas, great businesses, the things that will keep this world moving and make it better for the future aren't born in vacuums. If you need further convincing, you should take a minute to read a note my cousin just posted on dinner parties in Zanzibar. That makes me passionate about something as simple and seemingly frivolous as a dinner party – it has the power to bring people together.
But back to the point. These things put together still fall short of that elusive holy trinity of passion, talent, and meeting a significant need in the world. While I know this doesn’t happen in one great leap, a part of me harbours hope that it will. In the meantime, I’ll plod along my merry way, hoping that each tiny step, every little drop in the vast ocean that is my career path, will ultimately lead me to where these three meet.
It's hard to not be intimidated by a feat such as this, and at the same time not be inundated by the nitty gritty - but a lovely lady who I had the pleasure of meeting last week introduced me to the concept of a "care factor" and it's made every little thing that has crossed my path far more manageable.
These introspective posts of mine are almost always sparked by articles sent to me by close friends and acquaintances - and this one is no different - in fact, it was a double whammy from two vastly different directions. The funny thing is, P and Tulika don't know each other, and they know me in very different capacities, so why does it feel like everyone seems to be sending me the same message these days?
Image via the brilliant (and inspiring) Bernadette Jiwa of Striking Truths.